Every February for 17 years, Crystal Walker has run into the icy ocean off Manasquan at the annual Valentine Plunge to support the Joan Dancy and PALS (People with ALS) Foundation.
Last year, just before taking their frigid dip, she and her then boyfriend, Matthew Lee, decided to take the plunge on marriage, too. Dressed in cat-printed swim trunks and furry cat costume, Lee got down on one knee and asked for Walker’s hand in marriage. Friends and family who take the Valentine Plunge every year to honor Walker’s father, who passed away from ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) in 2015, were on hand to help celebrate.
“Matthew felt it would be a way to include my father,” she says.
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The Walker family were supporters of the foundation long before their father’s diagnosis, “so we knew exactly who to go to [when he got sick],” she says.
Founded in 2005, the Joan Dancy and PALS Foundation provides service and support to families in Monmouth and Ocean counties affected by ALS. The Valentine’s Plunge, where hundreds pledge money for the chance to race into the biting cold water, is a vital source of funding.